The United States will end its relationship with the World Health Organization over the body’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday, accusing the U.N. agency of becoming a puppet of China.
The move to quit the Geneva-based body, which the United States formally joined in 1948, comes amid growing tensions between Washington and Beijing over the coronavirus outbreak. The virus first emerged in China’s Wuhan city late last year.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said Chinese officials “ignored their reporting obligations” to the WHO about the virus – that has killed hundreds of thousands of people globally – and pressured the agency to “mislead the world.”
“China has total control over the World Health Organization despite only paying $40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying which is approximately $450 million a year,” he said.
Trump’s decision follows a pledge last week by Chinese President Xi Jinping to give $2 billion to the WHO over the next two years to help combat the coronavirus. The amount almost matches the WHO’s entire annual program budget for last year.
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Trump last month halted funding for the 194-member organization, then in a May 18 letter gave the WHO 30 days to commit to reforms.
“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” Trump said on Friday.
It was not immediately clear when his decision would come into effect. A 1948 joint resolution of Congress on U.S. membership of the WHO said the country “reserves its right to withdraw from the organization on a one-year notice.”
The World Health Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s announcement. It has previously denied Trump’s assertions that it promoted Chinese “disinformation” about the virus.
“It’s important to remember that the WHO is a platform for cooperation among countries,” said Donna McKay, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights. “Walking away from this critical institution in the midst of an historic pandemic will hurt people both in the United States and around the world.”